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Using dolls for therapeutic purposes: A study on nursing home residents with severe dementia

Author(s)

CANTARELLA A., et al

Publisher(s):

Wiley

Objectives: Among the psychosocial interventions intended to reduce the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), doll therapy (DT) is increasingly used in clinical practice. Few studies on DT have been based on empirical data obtained with an adequate procedure; however, none have assessed its efficacy using an active control group, and the scales used to assess changes in BPSD are usually unreliable. The aim of the present study was to measure the impact of DT on people with severe dementia with a reliable, commonly used scale for assessing their BPSD, and the related distress in formal caregivers. Effects of DT on the former's everyday abilities (i.e., eating behaviour) were also examined. Method: Twenty‐nine nursing home residents aged from 76 to 96 years old, with severe dementia (Alzheimer's or vascular dementia), took part in the experiment. They were randomly assigned to an experimental group that used dolls or an active control group that used hand warmers with sensory characteristics equivalent to the dolls. Benefits of DT on BPSD and related formal caregiver distress were examined with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. The effects of DT on eating behaviour were examined with the Eating Behavior Scale. Results: Only the DT group showed a reduction in BPSD scores and related caregiver distress. DT did not benefit eating behaviour, however. Conclusions: This study suggests that DT is a promising approach for reducing BPSD in people with dementia, supporting evidence emerging from previous anecdotal studies. (Edited publisher abstract)


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